Ghostigital – “The Antimatter Boutique – A Collection of Particles 2003-2013” (2013)

My infatuation with Ghostigital is well documented.  I’d be lying if I said it was “love at first listen,” and ultimately it was the song “Good Morning” off of 2006s In Cod We Trust that finally sunk the hooks into me.  I haven’t looked back since.  I even got to meet vocalist Einar Örn at a gallery showing of his artwork, and we’ve got one of his original pieces hanging on a wall at home.  I may not have quite reached super-fan stalker status, but I’m not far off.

IMG_0204

I recall The Antimatter Boutique hitting the racks of Reykjavik’s label/shop Smekkleysa about a day or two into Iceland Airwaves 2013, and I snatched up a copy immediately. The CDs (♠) 17 tracks are a combination of remixes of Ghostigital songs by other artists, remixes of other artists’ songs by Ghostigital, and a few rarities.  It’s an eclectic mix of tunes, and one that seems to have slipped by most Icelandic music fans, which is too bad because this is one trippy collection.

And it gets weird right off the bat with the opening track, “Green Eggs and Ham.”  Yes, that’s right kids, Ghostigital doing Dr. Seuss.  This was originally recorded in 2012 for NPR and as far as I know doesn’t appear on any formal release.  Einar’s stilted delivery of Suess’ words combined with Curver’s beats is an unsettling take on what is, frankly, some unsettling source material, and it’s guaranteed to mess with your brain.  That’s followed by an outtake called “Elastic Tongue” that didn’t make the duo’s last full-length release, 2012s Division of Culture and Tourism, though it did appear on their Record Store Day special from that same year, Don’t Push Me E.P.

After those two originals we get into the remix game, with Gusgus giving us some serious funk in their take on “Hvar Eru Peningarnir Minir?”, followed by a more metallic but still funky version of the Ghostigital classic “Crackers” re-done by Plúseinn.  From there Ghostigital turn the tables with their own mix of Björk’s “Innocence”, giving it the full-on metallic and brain-pan-scarping Curver treatment turning the original completely on its head and creating an anti-pop sonic assault to which Einar adds some of his own vocal flourishes.  This track, titled “Untouchable Innocence Still Amazes,” is probably the highlight of the collection, though the Gusgus mix of “Not Clean” certainly gives it a run for its money as does the version of “Dreamland,” the second half of which is sublime.

There’s so much great material on The Antimatter Boutique that giving you a full rundown would probably take 2,500 words, and frankly I think it would be a bit much.  So instead I’ll direct you to their Bandcamp page where you can check it all out for free, and buy a digital download for just $7.

(♠)  No vinyl version I’m afraid.

Curver – “Sær 1991-1994” (2004)

Life in the Vinyl Lane is, as its name would lead you to believe, primarily about vinyl.  But sometimes it’s about live music, and other times it’s about cassettes, and every now and again it’s about record shopping.  On rare occasions it’s about CDs.

This is one of those rare occasions.

Look, I have nothing against the CD.  In fact I was a very early adopter – I bought my first CD player at Radio Shack sometime around 1985.  I think I paid something insane like $300 for it (which was a lot of money for a teenager in 1985), and the local mall music store Musicland probably only carried a couple of hundred titles on the format… because that’s all there was.  CDs still came in longboxes then and usually ran you about 18 bucks, which we later came to find out after a class action lawsuit was an artificially high price kept in place for years due to collusion.  The man is always looking to get his hands into your wallet.

The above isn’t intended as a socio-economical-politico rant, or a way of saying “hey, look at me, I was a cool early adopter.”  It just shows that I have nothing against CDs.  For the most part I don’t buy a lot of new CDs any more, preferring to stick mostly to used.  But frankly there’s a lot of stuff that was only released on CD and not any of our favorite retro formats, so sometimes CDs are what you get.

Icelander Birgir Örn Thoroddsen is almost certainly better known by his performing name Curver, and primarily to contemporary audiences as one half of the musical-insanity-slash-stream-of-consciousness-performance-art that is Ghostigital, arguably the best band that no one in America has ever heard of.  But Curver’s musical career predates Ghostigital by a number of years, which is why we were excited when Holly found this CD collection of his early 1990s material at the Reykjavik flea market.

curversaen

We had no idea what to expect from Sær 1991-1994, and it gave us some things that made sense and others that didn’t.  You can definitely hear elements of Curver’s later electronic brutalist beats, but there’s also a ton of driving guitars and feedback.  It’s got a psych noise quality to it that reminds me a of a tighter, less rambling version of Les Rallizes Dénudés.  There are garage punk influences here, along with metal, industrial, and noise.  The songs are powerful and driving, intentionally raw and a bit grimy.

I wish I could tell you more about this CD, because there are copious notes in the booklet, but it’s all in Icelandic so I’m pretty much out of luck.  It may tell me that Curver once trained with the opera, or that he used his sonic creations to kill a rampaging polar bear, but I’ll never know.  What I do know, however, is that this is some bad-ass music that’s sure to get your blood pressure up and have you tapping your feet at 100 miles per hour.  It’s so good that if I run across more copies at Airwaves this year I might just buy ’em so I can bring them home and give them to friends – it’s that good.

Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 4

Day 4 (Saturday) of Iceland Airwaves is the last day where you really make some tough decisions, and a lot of them.  The schedule is massive – 42 “official” venues compete for your attention with the first shows starting at 11AM and the last one at 2:30 AM.  Compare that to Sunday, the final day of the festival, when you’ve only got 13 venues up and running, and the main on-venue acts all packed into one mega-show at Vodafone Hall.  Often Saturday is your last chance to catch those bands you’ve seemingly been missing throughout the week.  Inevitably you will end up missing at least someone you really wanted to see, but that’s Airwaves.  All the more reason to keep coming back.

ghostigitalbadtaste20105

One of those bands we wanted to see this year was Ghostigital.  We’d already missed their one on-venue performance, and on Saturday afternoon they were playing the little tiny Smekkleysa (a.k.a. “Bad Taste”) record store, owned by none other than Ghostigital vocalist Einar Örn.  We knew it would get packed so we went down early and posted up in the corner, and I’m glad we did because there were at least as many people watching the show from the sidewalk through the window (in the rain) as their were inside.  Even Rolling Stone contributor David Fricke, who we’ve seen at pretty much every Ghostigital show we’ve been to over the years, was relegated to the mean streets of Reyakjavik, on the outside looking in.  Electronics guru Curver was a bit late in arriving, which led Einar to spend some time telling the intimate crowd stories about growing up as a punk in Reykjavik, Icelandic politics, and how cool it was to get to meet his own personal idols from The Pop Group at this years festival.  The set was a four-song, intense stream of consciousness, as it generally is with Ghostigital, and we were as usual suitably impressed.  Plus, while looking at the window right before the show started, we made the obligatory Björk sighting as she walked down the street in front of the store.

From there we hustled up the street and back to the artist space Mengi to see the jazz/reggae/electro-ness of Kippi Kaninus.  I reviewed their Temperaments album in late 2014, and this was the first time we had a chance to see the collective perform live.  The room was packed and the band didn’t disappoint, performing a solid mid-tempo set in front of a truly appreciative and attentive crowd of a hundred or so people who crammed into the space.

After a nice dinner it was off to see some on-venue action.  We began the night at the beautiful Gamla Bíó, which I believe was added to Airwaves for the first time last year and has quickly become one of our favorite venues.  There we saw the absolutely outstanding female band Kælan Mikla who wove a tapestry of dark no-wave, made all the more intense by their intentional stoicness.  I LOVE what these women are doing.  I chatted for a second with one of the members and asked if they had released any music yet, and the answer was only a super limited (of 50) CD, but that they’re working on some new stuff.  I’ll be following them closely and keeping my eyes peeled for that when it eventually comes out.

DSCF2924

Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

After that it was time for our friend Dr. Gunni (above – right), who opened his set with guest dj. flugvél (above – left) and all her pure positive upbeat energy.  Gunni’s new 10″ is a pretty solid record, and the band he surrounded himself with was quite good.  We were right in the front row for the show, a rarity for us, but something we felt comfortable with due to the generally chill vibe in the venue.

Next up was a walk over to Harpa with the intention of seeing Beach House and Gusgus, but our plans were thwarted by an insanely long line downstairs just to be allowed upstairs to get to the venue.  After covering maybe a quarter of the line in 15-20 minutes, the last 10 of which were spent unmoving, it was obvious we would never make it in in time to see Beach House, so we said forget it and headed over to NASA instead.  As Holly reasoned, “It’s better to be seeing bands than not seeing bands,” and as it turns out that was a spectacular decision.

First up was the electro-awesomeness of Vök, a major up-and-comer in the local scene.  The crowd at NASA was in love with their style and emotion, and I’m pretty sure the lead singer started to tear up just a little in response to the huge ovation they got right before they started their closing number.  Next was QT.  I won’t lie – I wasn’t sure what to make of this performance, and frankly I’m still unsure.  Consider this description from Pitchfork, which described QT as an artist “whose first release was a love song to a fictional energy drink and whose second was the actual, suddenly non-fictional energy drink itself.”  I honestly have no idea what is real any more.  The crowd seemed to enjoy her beats, though, so there’s that.  Given that the image on the screen behind here was just a rotating can of her drink, though, it kind of felt like a weird commercial, or like I was stuck in Max Headroom world.

eastindiayouthnasa

That brings us to East India Youth, who put on one of if not the most intense solo performances I’ve seen anywhere ever.  Electronics, keyboard, electronic drums, and a bass guitar, all played by one guy with the energy of 10 men.  His hands were so fast on the keyboard you’d have thought he was the Flash or something.  He was practically vibrating on stage, nearly toppling his keyboard setup multiple times.  Sometimes more traditional song structure, sometimes pure dance beats, the crowd loved all of it and he left the stage absolutely drenched in sweat, having left it all out there.  An excellent capper to the night, and way better than waiting in line at Harpa.

Ghostigital – “Ekki mín ríkisstjórn” Single (2015)

I’m a huge fan of the Icelandic label Lady Boy Records.  Most of their previous 10 releases have been cassettes, generally in laser etched cases and in limited editions of 50 copies, though there was also an absolutely killer CD by the band Slugs and some tangerines etched with download codes for a Nicolas Kunysz song.  The tangerine is the one item from their catalog that I don’t have, though I’m kind of thankful because I don’t want to know what a nearly two year old tangerine would look like.

Needless to say I was very excited when I learned that LB011 was in the works.  And even more so when I found it out was a new Ghostigital single.  And even more still when I found out it was going to be a record!  From there it just got even weirder.  Because Lady Boy isn’t going to just put out some 7″ single and call it good.  Oh no.  How about a 6″ single.  And make it square instead of round.  On clear plastic.  Lathe cut.  And for dessert, the B side will be an etching of an original piece of Einar Örn art.  My mind was blown on so many levels I couldn’t even see straight.  That’s a lot going on for a three-minute single.  Needless to say, the second I heard about it I dashed off a note to the guys at Lady Boy and reserved my copy… which just showed up in the mail yesterday, along with the three tapes I needed to round out my LB collection.

ghostigitalekkiminrikisstjorn

Forgive the odd looking picture, but this item is hard to photograph!  It either ends up with a big reflection problem, or you simply can’t see the etching at all, so my best bet was putting it on my black sofa and taking a picture at an angle.

Now any semi-regular reader of Life in the Vinyl Lane has almost surely come across one of my posts about Ghostigital, the Icelandic duo (that sometimes grows to 5-6 members when performing live) of vocalist Einar Örn (Sugarcubes, Purrkur Pillnikk…) and electronics guru Curver.  We’ve seen their high-intensity live performances about a half dozen times over the years and they never, ever disappoint.  Bottom line is we love us some Ghostigital.

“Ekki mín ríkisstjórn” roughly translates to “Not My Government” and is more or less a political protest song, or perhaps more accurately an anti-government, anti-politics song.  The song itself has been around for a while now, but was just released digitally back in March in response to some political shennanigans.  Iceland’s English language paper, Reykjavik Grapevine, published a piece on it along with a brief interview with Einar Örn.  Musically it’s got some great Curver beats with some acidic and cutting electronics to keep you from getting into a comfortable groove, as if such a thing were even remotely possible when Einar Örn is in the room holding a microphone.  And since he opens this song shouting “NO!” (“NEI” in Icelandic) about 25 times, the mood gets set early.

It sounds like Ghostigital is working on some other new material as well, and I for one can’t wait to hear it.  They’re definitely on the right track with “Ekki mín ríkisstjórn.”  But don’t take my word for it.  You can check it out for free HERE, so make up your own damn mind.  NEI!

“Lady Boy Records 001” Compilation (2013)

I’ve been kicking myself for not picking up the first ever release by Iceland’s Lady Boy Records when I was visiting Reykjavik in April, 2013.  I even had a copy of it in my hot little hands, with it’s etched case, super limited edition print run (50 copies), and a Ghostigital track on it.  But I didn’t buy it.  In large part this was because I didn’t have a cassette player, so I guess in a way that was wise.  But later that year when we were back in Iceland for Airwaves I gave in to the temptation that is Icelandic black metal cassettes, and promptly bought a tape player when we returned.

lb001

At that point I hit up the guys at Lady Boy and scored all their current cassette releases… except Lady Boy 001 which was, of course, long since sold out by then (50 copies will go quick).  I’ve kept my eyes open for it since, but with no luck.  Until a few weeks ago when I got an email from Frímann over at the label letting me know that if I was still interested, someone on Discogs had a copy for sale.  A week later it was waiting for me in my mailbox.  Pretty cool move by Frímann, remembering that I wanted it and letting me know about someone who was selling a copy.  It’s not like he was making any money on that transaction, he was just giving me the 4-1-1.

I was primarily interested in Lady Boy 001 due to the Ghostigital track, “Sit Hér,” but quickly realized there’s a lot of great stuff on here – it’s not a one-trick pony.  Immediately following Ghositigital is a track by Krummi (“Vélblóð”), the multi-talented artist best known for his work with Esja and Legend who has also recently been doing a lot of experimentation into electro-noise.  Noise merchants Döpur are also here, as well as electro guru Futuregrapher.

While I expect good things from those folks, almost every track on this tape is a hidden gem.  LVX’s electro-soul is intriguing and almost begging for a hip hop artists to rhyme over it, and the chip-tuniness of Úlfur’s “Zeigel” is like a dose of video game fun.  There’s even a pretty random punk rock tune by Dead//Beat that is way outside of everything else on the tape.  The biggest gem, however, is Bix’s “No Mercy (Dirty Bixin Mixness),” a truly brilliant piece of electronica with some killer beats.

While tracking down your own physical copy of the tape could be tough, fear not, dear reader.  Because you can listen to the entire thing HERE for free, and even purchase for digital download.  While you’re there, check out some of Lady Boy’s other titles too, especially Slugs (which took down the #5 spot on my personal Top 5 releases of 2013) and Pink Street Boys.  I haven’t checked out the label’s most recent three releases, but may have to do so while I’m thinking about it so I don’t miss out on the chance to add more tapes to my growing collection.